Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ferret

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Ferret

Article excerpt

Way, shape or sixth form

Wasteful expansion

It has long been a source of frustration to colleges that while their funding has been repeatedly trimmed, schools have been given carte blanche to splurge millions on opening new sixth forms.

It is especially irksome that in many cases there has apparently been little demand for additional places. And the seemingly wasteful duplication of provision has been made possible only by schools cross-subsidising the expansion using funding meant for younger students.

In total, 169 schools have opened new sixth forms since 2010. Not surprisingly, the emergence of measures to tackle this inefficiency was roundly welcomed in the FE sector.

The guidance on proposals for schools looking to open new sixth-form provision was quietly published on the Department for Education website last month, before being uncovered by those web ninjas at the Association of Colleges (read the story at bit.ly/SixthFormLimits).

The detail buried in the document offers a striking insight into a significant shift in thinking over at the DfE.

Shutting the stable door...

Let's recap: from now on, new sixth forms will be expected to cater for 200 or more students, and will have to offer around 15 different A levels "across a range of subjects".

Any application to open a new sixth form should demonstrate "demand, including any shortage of post-16 places, and assessment of the quality of level 3 provision overall in the area and the impact of the new provision on other providers". …

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